Was Election Night a Mandate for the Status Quo?

So here we are. Four years later. Barack Obama. President. Forward triumphs over backward. A new year will soon dawn. But a new era?

Sure, we had some good times. Last night was a victory for the environment, our infrastructure, and healthcare, among other things. We got to see Ted Nugent melt down on Twitter, including this gem:

Goodluk America u just voted for economic & spiritual suicide. Soulless fools

Speaking of soulless: We got to see Karl Rove, Prince of Darkness, freak out on live TV, as Craig Unger wrote on Salon, providing “an unparalleled spectacle of schadenfreude for Democrats: Karl Rove, stricken, like Humpty-Dumpty after the fall, as Barone patiently explained to him, as one might talk to a child, that Obama really had won Ohio — and the election.”


But we still have a Democratic president, a Democrat-controlled Senate, and a Republican-controlled house.  The Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and the Republicans have solid control of the House. The same recipe for dysfunction we’ve had for the past two years.

Romney said Republicans should work with the president. How many of you think that is likely?

It is tempting to think of 2012 as a high-water mark for extremism, religious, economic, and political. I hope it is just that. We saw extremists toppled – rape enthusiasts like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went the way of the buffalo, proving to the world that the war on women was very real and also showing that women were having none of it.

Elizabeth Warren got her revenge; denied a position in the consumer protection bureau, she came back to become a potentially even bigger thorn in the Republican side as a member of the U.S. Senate. It was a good year for women, in the end, rough as it started.

Where we go from here, however, is far from certain. Recovery is only partial and it is only partial because of years of Republican obstructionism, dating back to President Obama’s first day in office in 2009. If we’ve shed some Republican extremists, plenty enough remain. The Tea Party is less a force than it was in 2010 but there are no signs Republicans will be more willing to compromise or cooperate in 2013.

As Jason Easley wrote here yesterday, lies and hate lost in 2012 but lies and hate remain a staple of Republican politics. Lies and hate wrote the Republican 2012 party platform.

Cognitive dissonance is likely to remain a problem. Republicans don’t realize they’ve hit a stone wall. Rachel Maddow and her team could talk last night about how the Republicans are out of touch and out of step with the rest of America, but the Republicans are no more going to recognize that fact in 2013 than they did in 2009.

Now the question is: will the GOP be willing to let America wither away. Will they decide to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? it is not a matter of what we are asking them to do, but of what they are prepared to do.

In 2009 they made their intentions perfectly clear. In 2010, they doubled down on those intentions. We still have John Boehner to deal with. And Michele Bachmann. And bigoted white folks.  According to MSNBC’s First Read, “89% of all votes Mitt Romney won last night came from whites.”

I imagine I won’t be the only white man to be glad to see America’s white majority wither away, but I am most definitely in a minority. I will say this: I am in better company than the 89 percent.

And then there is the issue of our shared reality, which as it turns out, is not shared by the Republican Party. Democrats might see last night as a mandate. Republicans might agree with Ted Nugent. Then there is the so-called Fiscal Cliff. Here is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say last night:

“To the extent [Obama] wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system.”

So they will meet us half-way to the Fiscal Cliff.  And they want to fix a broken “entitlement” system. But what if, in fact, there is no Fiscal Cliff to use as a rendezvous point? What is the system they say is broken is not an entitlement system at all?

And argument predicated on false assumptions isn’t much of an argument.

How can Democrats meet Republicans at a place that exists only in Republican imaginations? Is it enough if both sides believe in it? Can shared fantasy bear fruit? Or does that just mean two, not just one, sides, are seeking a solution to a problem that does not exist?

Should we not be trying to solve some of our real problems? We have already seen Republicans solve non-existent voter fraud (except to the extent they themselves are guilty), and non-existing fetus-eating issues, not to mention an imaginary war on freedom of belief. Must we waste more time on windmill jousting?

Fiddling, so the saying goes, as Rome burns?

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

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